Pennsylvania next week will send texts to about 250,000 people who got a first dose of COVID-19 but didn’t follow through on a second.
The texts will go to people who got their first dose between mid-December and mid-May.
The text will be “very short and very to the point” and include the message “the delta variant is here. Get your second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to be protected,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said.
It will include information for scheduling the dose.
The tactic is part of an effort to jump-start the pace of vaccination in the state, which has dropped off significantly, with just shy of 63% of Pennsylvanians 18 or older fully vaccinated.
Beam during a news briefing on Thursday afternoon assured people it’s not to late get a second dose, even outside of the recommended range of 42 days from the first.
“It is never too late to get your second dose. You do not have to start over,” she said.
Beam said the 250,000 who will receive text represent the bulk of the people who received a first dose but not a second. The state has been giving about 12,500 doses per day, she said.
Dr. Denise Johnson, the state’s acting physician general, said for the vaccines that require two doses, the second dose is needed for full protection, especially for the more contagious delta variant, which now accounts for 65% or more of new cases in Pennsylvania.
She further advised people to get the same brand as their first dose, Pfizer or Moderna. People who got Johnson & Johnson only need one dose.
Beam said people don’t need to return to the same place they got their first dose, noting vaccine is now available at hundreds of local pharmacies, supermarkets, doctors’ offices and hospitals.
Beam gave these Pennsylvania vaccination statistics on Thursday: Among Pennsylvanians 12 and older 52% are fully vaccinated. The figures are 60.1% for people 18 or older and 83.5% for people 65 and older.
Beam said Pennsylvania is holding back on vaccination mandates, although state officials are “encouraged” by health care organizations such as hospitals and nursing homes which have announced intent to require vaccination among employees.
She said state officials “are looking at other states and we’re watching closely what they’re doing by way of vaccine mandates, but right now we are simply encouraging those that have had their workforces vaccinated, and we want to make sure we can stand by them on those efforts.”
She also said “a statewide masking mandate is not currently under contemplation for Pennsylvania … we want to focus on the vaccination effort right now to protect us heading into the fall.”
“While we are extremely proud of Pennsylvania’s vaccination rate, we know that we still have only 52% of our population fully vaccinated,” Beam said.